Church and State in the High Middle Ages

The connection established between the Frankish kings and the Roman Catholic Church (headed by the Pope) led to a blurring of the lines between religious and political power (for example, Pope Leo III naming Charlemagne the Holy Roman Emperor).

Beginning in the 11th century CE, conflict between political and religious authorities grew, in what called the “investiture controversy.” While it was originally over who had the power to name bishops (who often controlled vast amounts of land and wealth within various European kingdoms) it was also about a basic struggle for power.

These excerpts
provide insight into the conflict and will give you a glimpse into the complex arguments about religion and politics during the high middle ages.

Questions for consideration:

  1. What are the most surprising powers the Pope claimed to have? Which of these seem more suited to a political leader than a religious leader?
  2. Which of these powers do you think would be most objectionable to a king or emperor?
  3. What are three specific complaints that Henry IV had about Pope Gregory VII?
  4. How did the Pope respond?